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THE LONG WAY HOME
The meadows around the house were green with the lush growth of any early summer in upstate New York. This was the place of my birth; a small dairy farm where I lived with my father and mother. The farm contained large meadows filled with lush grass and flowers and thick wood lands with large maples, oaks and beech trees. Small streams, that we called brooks, coursed through the fields; flowing out of the wooded areas clear and cold, filled with a variety of interesting creatures that were of great interest to a young boy.
Those were halcyon days; summer days without end, no cares or concerns beyond whether or not a red worm threaded on a size 10 hook could be used to fool the brook trout living under the undercut bank. There was a sense of tremendous importance as to exactly how the worm was threaded on the hook and precisely how many split shot sinkers were necessary to get the worm to bounce along the bottom into the darkness under the bank. Once the worm was bouncing along the bottom it was necessary to watch the line with great intensity, watching for any momentary hesitation in the drift which could indicate something had taken the bait. At that moment, suspended between the present and the future, time did not seem to exist.
Somewhere along the line I moved on beyond those little brooks and those speckled trout living under the bank. The little brooks flowed into bigger streams; every downstream, larger and larger. As they grew so did I; worms and split shot sinkers gave way to shinny lures made from metal and then to artificial flies tied with fur and feathers on metal hooks.
It was all very simple then. Fishing was fun without any pressure to catch the most or the biggest fish. When I began to fish almost exclusively with flies each fish was a challenge. The catching was just part of the fun. What were those bugs that they were eating? How could I best imitate that bug and present it so that the fish would think it’s something to eat? There was proper presentation to be considered, not merely chuck and hope. Drift and drag became words that were now more than merely words on paper. It was a whole new exciting world.
Somewhere, I’m not exactly certain where, fishing became more than just a simple form of recreation. Perhaps it began when I started teaching others how to do it, taking money to guide them or teach them how to tie flies. Perhaps it started when I became involved in organizations that were promoting the sport and the protection of the environment. Somehow it became more serious. It was no longer just a fun contest between me and a fish, the whole thing took on a much more serious-minded aspect.
Then, as it happens to all of us, time and the results of time began to have an impact on my life. It was time to return to enjoying the pure joy of fishing just for the fun of it. It was time to rediscover the enjoyment and blessing of being able to spend another day in the world that God had created. To rediscover the joy of dropping a dry fly over a rising trout, or casting a popper along the edge of the shoreline covered with lily pads and bulrushes, with only the hope that a fish might rise, no matter how big and present me the challenge of bringing it to hand.
Now I find myself, like that boy from my youth, wandering again down to the brook, rod in hand, sunshine on my shoulders and all the possibilities of another day before me. It has been a long way home, but I’m ever so grateful for the journey.